The Drama King is in the Building

Last weekend the Lady and I made our way to the September edition of Hip-Hop Karaoke, like we do almost every month. I’ve commemorated the magic that is HHK on these pages before, but September 2010 was special, since it marked the first competitive edition.

Month in and month out, HHK is an exhibition, a roof shaking party of the highest order, but nothing at stake besides reputation. But this was different. No hype men, solo performances only, celebrity judges [Das EFX, Michie Mee, Master T and DJ X] 20 spots only, first come first serve, nobody looks at the list except the crew. Those 20 spots filled 25 minutes after the doors to the venue opened. We got there ten minutes after that. Damn.

I was legitimately disheartened I didn’t make the list. It was nobody’s fault, who would ever expect a hip-hop show to start on time, karaoke or not? But I still wanted to be on that stage, I just wanted to be a part of it. I mean, we’re not number one superstars supreme team, but they know us there, and I think we’ve paid our dues and started to scrape the bottom edge of the top bracket of performers, if I may. And I worked hard learning a Wu-Tang song, only to switch to Mos Def the afternoon before the show. I don’t recommend ever making a last minute switch for HHK, but I felt good going in. As it turned out, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t make it, since either song I was thinking of doing would have sunk me faster than Big Pun in a diving pool.

My mistake was thinking that the main components of merit would be memorization and skillful delivery, with crowd enthusiasm connected to and accenting those two. Instead, success at capturing HHK glory was wholly dependent on whether or not the crowd knew your song, and if it was popular. Which is cool, but like….ugh. Look, I’m not some OG who used to go back when it was at The Boat in Kensington, my first show was at the Gladstone in ’08, my first performance after they set up shop at Revival. But after six shows, you start making your list of songs you don’t ever need to hear again. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Insane in the Brain by Cypress Hill
  • Killing Me Softly by The Fugees
  • Pretty much anything by Eminem
  • Got Ya Money by Ol’ Dirty Bastard
  • The Choice is Yours by Black Sheep
  • Shoop by Salt-n-Pepa

At September’s Edition, all of these bases were covered. And a performance of Shoop fricking won!

Now, I don’t want anyone reading this to think I’m taking shots at the crew behind HHK, the people who judged it or the performers themselves. Most people who placed are among my favourite performers month in and month out, and I think 2010 Champion Mandy is one of the best to step on the stage.  I’m just a little disappointed that she felt she had to do comedy to get over: during the male vocal of ‘Shoop’, Mandy pulled out a rubber cock to signify a man was rapping.  Combined with her usual sexy charisma [and seasoned with the undoing of her belt for some reason], she was a shoo-in for the trophy, and I think everyone knew it as soon as she was done.

I realize this sounds like me being fussy, a party-poop.  Another surly faced hip-hop fan who wants to take the party out of the music and stand there mean mugging with my arms crossed.  And that might be true to an extent, but it’s not entirely accurate.  I have no problem with a party [as the crew spun classics between sets, I was struck by how overwhelmingly positive the mood in the room was, everyone in our part of the room was having a hell of a good time, for certain], but you can work a crowd up without a dildo, as Mandy proved the first time I saw her onstage.

Look at that! Pitbull in a skirt!  She totally deaded ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ for me, so bad I can’t take anyone seriously when they do it now, because they won’t be as good.  Can anyone tell me she wouldn’t have won with that?

But lesson learned, and the winners figured it out before I did: if I make it to the stage next year, I’ll be sure to pick something simple with a hook, so the drunk and hot girls can sing along.  But next month, I’ma do some Ice Cube.

POSTSCRIPT: The main reason I wanted to get on stage wasn’t even really to perform, it was to thank Master T, who was there to judge.  Because I had it easy, I had radio from across the river to enthrall me.  But for kids in Regina, in Halifax, in Charlottetown, Master T was their conduit to this music and culture, he brought it into their homes every day on Rap City and Vibe.  And for that, Tony Young deserves our gratitude.  All respect to Master T.


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